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Young people's travel - what's changed and why?

30 January 2018

This has just been published on Gov.UK:

The Department of Transport (DfT) commissioned research on young people’s travel behaviour to better understand why young people are driving less than previous generations. 

Key findings are:

Young people today are less likely to have a driving licence and/or access to a car than previous generations, due to:

  • changes in the labour market, including less secure employment
  • increased participation in higher education and increases in the average age at which people move into long-term employment and have children
  • increased urbanisation of this generation of young people, which has made car use less necessary
  • a rise in the cost of driving and other living costs, including housing.

The changes in young people’s socio-economic and living situations have their roots in the 1980s and 1990s. They are not due to the 2007-08 global economic crisis and subsequent recession, although these deepened and accelerated some of the causes. 

  • There is no evidence to suggest that young people’s reduced car use has been due to an increase in environmental concerns. It may be the case that this generation view cars as less important or aspirational.
  • There is limited evidence on the role of technology, such as smart phones, and whether or not this is associated with reduced car use.
  • Reductions in driving and increases in public transport use have occurred to the greatest extent in London and other areas with high population density, where alternatives to driving are more readily available and there are greater constraints on driving. The researchers conclude that this demonstrates that transport policies and investments can shape long-term trends – although interventions in other policy areas (such as housing and employment) may be more effective in shaping young people’s travel behaviour.

The researchers conclude it is unlikely that there is a return to pre-1990 levels of driving and ‘that a modest change towards greater car ownership (or leasing) and use can be expected in the next 10-15 years for Millennials, although possibly only for those who secure stable, full-time employment’.